Scottish Football: An Honest Game, Honestly Governed?

A Guest Blog by Auldheid for TSFM

Honesty requires both transparency and accountability. In pursuit of honest, transparent and accountable governance of Scottish football, and only that objective, the following letter, with attachments, has been sent to SPFL lawyers, CEO and SPFL Board Members.

An honest game free from deception is what football supporters of all clubs want. It is the action the letter and attachments prompt that will tell us if there is any intention of providing it.

It is a response on behalf of readers here on TSFM, but the sentiment which underpins it is almost universally held amongst fans of all clubs.  Importantly it is a response directly to all clubs, especially those with a SPFL Board member, that will make the clubs and the football authorities aware just how seriously supporters take the restoration of trust in an honest game, honestly governed.

The annexes to the letter contain information which may be published at a later date. We thought it appropriate to first await any response from any of the recipients.

Please also draw this to the attention of friends who are not internet using supporters and love their football and their club.

Auldheid

__________________________________________________________________

Harper MacLeod
The Ca’d’oro
45 Gordon Street
Glasgow
G1 3PE
19 Feb 2014
Copy sent to SPFL CEO and Board Members *
Dear Mr McKenzie
We the contributors to The Scottish Football Monitoring web site write to you in your capacity as the legal adviser employed by Harper MacLeod to assist the Scottish Premier League (now the Scottish Professional Football League) to gather evidence and investigate the matter of incorrect player registrations involving concealed side letters and employee benefit trusts as defined in the eventual Lord Nimmo Smith Commission.
We note from the then SPL announcement that set up an enquiry that the initial date range to be covered was from the inception of the SPL in July 1998, but that was changed to 23 November 2000 because, according to our understanding, that is the date of the first side letter supplied by Rangers Administrators Duff and Phelps. It is also our understanding that the SPL asked for all documentation relating to side letters as well as the letters themselves.
It is a matter of public record that Rangers Administrators failed to supply the SPL all relevant documentation. Indeed the seriousness of not complying with SPL requests was the subject of an admonition of Rangers/Duff and Phelps from Lord Nimmo Smith under Issue 4 of his Commission.
Quite how serious that failure to comply or concealment was in terms of misleading the Commission and so Lord Nimmo Smith can now be assessed from the information contained at Annexes 1 to 10 attached.
We think that as legal advisers to the SPL (now the SPFL) you have a responsibility to make them aware that their Commission was misled by the concealment of documents starting on 3 September 1999, and signed by current SFA President Campbell Ogilvie, whose silence on the ebt matters referred to in the attached annexes* is questionable at the very least.
This letter but not attachments is being posted on The Scottish Football Monitor web site as this is matter for all of Scottish football and support for the issue being pursued to establish the truth can be gauged by responses from supporters from all Scottish clubs once the letter has been published there.
A copy of this letter with Annexes has also been sent to the SPFL CEO and members of the SPFL Board.
Acknowledgement of receipt and reply can be sent by e mail to:
(Address supplied)
Yours in sport

On behalf of The Scottish Football Monitor contributors and readers. http://www.tsfm.org.uk/
Addressees copied in
Neil Doncaster CEO
The Scottish Professional Football League
Hampden Park
Glasgow G42 9DE
Eric Riley (Celtic),
The Celtic Football Club
Celtic Park
Glasgow G40 3RE

Stephen Thompson (Dundee United),
Tannadice Park,
Tannadice Street,
Dundee, DD3 7JW
Duncan Fraser (Aberdeen);
Aberdeen Football Club plc
Pittodrie Stadium
Pittodrie Street
Aberdeen AB24 5QH
Les Gray (Hamilton),
Hamilton Academical FC
New Douglas Park
Hamilton
ML3 0FT
Mike Mulraney (Alloa)
Alloa Athletic FC
Clackmannan Road
Recreation Park
Alloa FK10 1RY
Bill Darroch (Stenhousemuir).
Stenhousemuir F.C.
Ochilview Park
Gladstone Road
Stenhousemuir
Falkirk
FK5 4QL

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The Existence of Laws

A Blog by James Forrest for TSFM

I am a socialist, and as a socialist I believe in the fundamental goodness of people. Some people find that hard to believe when they read the stuff I write.

I published my first novel recently, on politics and the corrupting nature of it, and it is a deeply cynical book, a book where no-one has clean hands come the end. What has surprised some of those who’ve read it is that I didn’t focus on the lies and smears of the right, but the hypocrisy and deceit of those who claim to be of the left.

Corruption, you see, doesn’t respect political boundaries or points of view. It’s like rainwater. It finds every crack, and gets in there.

My political beliefs revolve around two apparently paradoxical elements; the belief in the inherent decency of people and the need for a strong, and powerful, state. I believe the second underpins the first, and this brings me into conflict with a lot of people, some on the left and some on the right. Too many people see the state as inherently evil, as something that interferes too much in the lives of ordinary people. As something suffocating.

Yet the state exists to protect us. It exists to provide a safety net. It exists to regulate and to oversee. If the state is made up of bad people, if the gears of society are captured by those with malicious or selfish intent, the results are obvious; war, corruption, chaos.

The vast majority of our problems in the modern age can be neatly summed up in two lines from Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming”, which I used to open my novel. “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

We live in a time when those who are protecting their own interests have assumed such power that they’ve cowed the rest of us. They have become a law unto themselves. They have changed the nature of the game, because they have sapped our will to the extent some barely put up a fight anymore. The weak get weaker, and the strong use their strength to crush the rest even more. It is a vicious struggle, a downward spiral.

Society is held together not only by the endeavour and common interests of its citizens but by a collection of laws. We elect the people who make those laws. They do so in our name, and we can remove that right every four years. That is a powerful thing, and we do not appreciate it enough. The present corruption exists because we allow it to exist.

The people around me continue to puzzle over my uncommon interest in the affairs of a football club on the west of Glasgow. My own club plays in the east end. I tell those who ask that my primary interest in the goings-on at the club calling itself Rangers is no longer about football; how could it be, after all? With promotion this year they are still a full two divisions below us, emasculated, skint, weak and unstable. If we were fortunate enough to draw them in cup competition the match would be over, as a tie, by the halfway point … in the first half.

In footballing terms they are an utter irrelevance.

Rangers is more than a football club to me. They are a symbol. Their unfolding calamity is an on-going outrage. What is happening there, what is being allowed to happen, is an offense to decency. It is a stain on the face of our country.

In short, it is a scandal. It is a scandal without parallel in sport.

Yet it’s not just a sports story either. If it was, I might not be so focussed on it. What is happening at Rangers is a colossal failure of governance. It is a damning indictment against the very people who are supposed to oversee our game. It is a disgraceful abrogation of responsibility from those at the top, those who claim to be “running things.”

If this is not a failure of governance it is a result of corruption at the heart of our national sport. It says they are bought and paid for, and I will say no such thing here.

So let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. We’ll say instead that what they are is weak, indecisive, inept and disconnected from reality.

It reminds me of our political class, which has become insular and ignorant about what the public wants, and what it needs. It’s not a wonder parties like UKIP can achieve national vote shares of 25% at local elections. Nigel Farage strikes me as a dog-whistle politician, the kind who knows how to appeal to a select group of voters. He is little different to Charles Green, the man who beguiled Rangers fans into handing over large amounts of money, because he was “standing up for the club.” It is easy to do what he did, easy to do what Farage is doing.

Real leadership requires toughness. Say what you like about the Tories, but they have that in spades. Yeats was right about the worst being full of passionate intensity. Green was. Farage is. Cameron and Osborne personify it in their political outlook.

It is easy to be cowed by blunt force politics, and by “tough talking Yorkshire men” and venomous speeches about “strivers and skivers.” The politics of divide and conquer is the oldest form of politics there is, and it’s no surprise to see it practiced by some of the vested interests in the game here in Scotland. Yet, lest we forget … something significant happened last year. The maligned and the ignored, the weak and the voiceless found something they never realised they had. They discovered that, in a very real sense, the power was in their hands.

Last year, the fans rose up when the governing bodies and the media went all-out to save Rangers from the self-inflicted wounds caused by a decade of cheating, malpractice and ineptitude. I have no problem calling that what it was.

What happened at Rangers seemed incredible, but it was all too predictable, and some of us had been talking about it for years before it hit. The Association seemed caught in the headlights but it would amaze me if they really were as insular and ignorant as they appeared. They must have known how bad the outlook was for Rangers. They just chose to ignore it.

They were aided and abetted by a thoroughly disreputable media, a collection of cowards and compromisers, charlatans and frauds, masquerading as journalists, but who long ago laid aside any claim to be bold investigators and settled for commenting on events as they unfolded. More often than not, with their ill-informed opinions, sometimes due to weaknesses in intellect and others wilfully ignorant, they failed even in that.

Entire newspapers became PR machines for crooks and swindlers. They aided in the scam because they didn’t do their jobs, some because they were lazy, some because they were incompetent and others because they wanted a seat at the table and were willing to sacrifice whatever integrity they once had in exchange for one.

That all of this was embraced by the Rangers fans is amazing to me. They trusted when they should have been asking questions. They closed their eyes, covered their ears and sang their battle tunes at the top of their voices so they wouldn’t have to hear anything they didn’t like. As incredible as I found it then, and still find it now – and now, even more so, when they have already seen the results of it once – I find it pathetic too, and I do feel pity for some of them.

A lot of these people are genuine football fans, and nothing more. They have no interest in the phony narrow nationalism, or the over-blown religion, or the notion of supremacy which manifested itself in a ludicrous statement from McCoist when interviewed recently on Sky.

Some of the Rangers fans look at their team of duds, kids and journeymen, they look at a boardroom of cowards and crooks, they look at a failing manager in his first (and last) job in the game and at a dark future and are not in the least bit impressed by, or interested in, the chest-out arrogance espoused in those ridiculous words “we are the people.” They know full well that their present crisis was made by men like McCoist, and they understand that pretentious posturing is not an act born of strength, but a scrambling around in the gutter, and a symptom of weakness.

They understand their position, and they hate it. And because they care about Rangers, because they value the club, because they cherish those things that made it a great Scottish institution, they want that back. They understand that before the Union Jack waving, Sash singing, poppy wearing, Nazi saluting, Orange element became the public face of their support Rangers meant something else, and that, above all things, is what pains them the most.

People do not hate Rangers. When the country appeared to turn its back last year, they were turning the back on favouritism and the bending of rules. Yet it would be a lie to say that there is not an element of dislike in the gleeful mockery of many rival fans.

But they don’t hate Rangers either. They hate the version of it around which a certain section of the support continues to dance. They hate the version which hates, and so too do many, many, many Rangers supporters, and they definitely deserve better.

David Murray chose not to openly challenge that version. Indeed, he encouraged certain strands of it to flourish and grow, with his “Britishness Days” and his effort to turn the club into the “team that supports the troops.” Other clubs have done as much, if not more, for the British Army than the one that plays out of Ibrox. Other clubs have given more money. Other clubs have lent their support to those on the front lines. They just chose to do it with respect, and with class, and with dignity. They chose to do it in private, understanding that there eventually comes a tipping point between looking after the ends of the soldiers and using them to promote your own.

The army has not battened on to Rangers. Rangers has battened on to them, and although it is unclear when an altruistic motive became darker, what started out as a gesture of solidarity is now used to entrench division and promote a notion of superiority.

Craig Whyte took over from Murray and immediately understood the lure of the “dog whistle.” He knew too that the media would accept whatever he told them, without question, and as he spoke up for “Rangers traditions” he made sure the lunatic fringe was well onside. He met face to face with the hard-core extremists in the support first and made them his praetorian guard. They spoke up for him until the day the club entered administration.

So, whereas Murray pandered to them and Whyte used them to further his own ends, it was only a matter of time before someone suggested to Charles Green that he could use the same tactics to win over the support. He went even further and blatantly promoted and encouraged this mind-set, and stoked the hate and nonsense to frightening new heights. The same people who cheered Whyte to the rafters jumped on board the Big Blue Bus and the results are clear.

Through all of it, the ordinary Rangers fan has seen his club buffered against the rocks, battered, broken, smashed to smithereens and sunk. Now there’s a big hole in the side of the lifeboat, and they are terrified that further tragedies await.

They are right to be concerned. Much of the media is still not telling them what they need to know. The people in charge of their club – the owners who have lied, the former hack who covered up the truth about Whyte and now acts as a mouthpiece for Green, the “club legends” who are content to sup with the devil and take his greasy coin when they should be standing toe-to-toe with the fans – are trying to silence those members of the press who do have facts to present.

How many times now have media outlets been banned from Ibrox for daring to report the truth? The manager who demanded the names of a committee last year defends those inside the walls who are desperate to keep secret the things that are going on. He is either an unprincipled coward, or he is, himself, bought and paid for. The fans suffer for it.

The “inconvenient truth” is still being kept from them, and this denies them any chance to play an active role in their club. Indeed, it is all too possible that they’ve passed a point of no return, and that their club is heading for a new liquidation event and it can no longer be stopped.

In either case, their power has been eroded to the point at which they must feel they have nothing left to do but stand back and watch what happens next.

They are wrong. I am a socialist. I believe in the inherent good of people. I think the ordinary decent Rangers fans are the only people left who can save their club … and the means by which they will do it is as simple as it could be.

They must stand up for “big government.” They must embrace the need for a “strong state.” They must lobby the SFA, and they must trust the SFA and they must get the SFA to follow its own rules and thereby save them from any further harm.

There is a tendency amongst some Celtic fans to see our governing bodies as pro-Rangers. If it is true then those running our game are ruining Scottish football without benefiting the thing they love more. The incalculable harm that has been done to Rangers in the last 20 some months is a direct result of the subservient media and the willingness of the football authorities to be “deaf, dumb and blind.” Those who believe this has actually helped the Ibrox club have not been paying attention in class. It has irrevocably scarred them, and it may yet have played a hand in destroying them once and for all, as a force if not as a club entirely.

For years, the SFA sat and did nothing as a club in their association operated a sectarian signing policy. They did nothing whilst the fans sang sectarian songs. In their failure to act they strengthened those elements of the Rangers support, instead of isolating, alienating and eventually helping to eliminate those who saw that club as a totem pole of division and hate. Their failure over EBT’s, and their lack of scrutiny, led to one of the greatest scandals in the history of sport, and I say that with no equivocation at all. The testimony of their registrations officer in the Lord Nimmo Smith investigation was a disgrace and in years to come it will rank as one of the most disreputable and damaging moments in the association’s history.

The most egregious failures of all were the failures in the so-called “fit and proper person” tests, which allowed first Whyte and then Charles Green to assume controlling positions at Ibrox. They will pass the buck and say the responsibility lies with the club itself, in much the same way as they are content to let the club investigate itself at the present time, but any neutral who looks at this stance knows it is unprincipled and spineless. It’s like letting the defence set the terms at a trial. It is foxes investigating the chicken coop.

It is a blueprint for corruption, and a recipe for disaster.

It is now too late for the SFA to declare Green “unfit”, as it was too late when they finally slapped that title on Craig Whyte. He and his allies own Rangers, and they control its destiny. They can push the club to the wall if they choose, in the final extremity, if that gets them what they want. The time for changing that is past. The damage has already been done. The barbarians are not at the gates. They are inside the walls, and sacking the city.

The SFA will be forced to punish Rangers for the sins of the owners, for the second time in as many years, and whilst it is right that the club face up to that, all the better to send a message to other clubs and other owners, the SFA cannot be allowed to slither off the hook here as though this was none of their doing. Green will skip off into the sunset. Craig Whyte has yet to pay his fine. These people never cared about Scottish football and they don’t care now.

The SFA are supposed to. Our governing body is supposed to govern, for the good of the whole game, and not as a support system for a single club. What they have allowed to happen on their watch is absolutely shameful and if the people responsible were men at all, with any sense of accountability, they would resign en masse.

They can pretend ignorance, but only the truly ignorant would accept that. Craig Whyte was not inside Ibrox a week before RTC and other sites were dismantling his entire business history, with some of the people here doing the work the SFA would not. Whyte himself claims to have made the governing bodies aware of the scale of what was facing the club, and they did nothing at all. Heads should have rolled a year ago.

In October of last year, on this very site, I posted an article in which I wrote:

“Which isn’t to say the due diligence matter isn’t worrying, because, of course, it is. Again, no-one is going to convince me that the SFA has conducted proper due diligence on Charles Green and his backers. No-one will convince me they are satisfied that this club is in safe hands, and that the game in this country will not be rocked by a further implosion at Ibrox. They failed to properly investigate Craig Whyte, because of lax regulations requiring disclosure from the club itself, regulations which are just a joke, but they can be forgiven for that as the press was talking sheer nonsense about him having billions at his disposal, and a lot of people (but not everyone!) were either convinced or wanted to be convinced by him.

To have witnessed what Whyte did, to have witnessed the Duff & Phelps “process” of finding a buyer, and having Green essentially emerge from nowhere, with a hundred unanswered questions as to his background and financing, for the SFA to have given this guy the go ahead, only for it to blow up in their faces later, would annihilate the credibility of the governing body and necessitate resignations at every level. There would be no hiding place.”

There are times when it is fun to be right, but this is not one of them. It is dispiriting and disquieting to have been so on the nose. It scares the Hell out of me, as someone who loves football in this country, to have seen this matter clearly when the people running our game apparently either did not or chose to ignore very real, very obvious, concerns. The Internet Bampots had no special insight or access to information that was denied those at the SFA. We just weren’t prepared to ignore it and pretend that it wasn’t there. There was too much at stake.

I have become convinced that things will never change until the Rangers supporters join us in demanding the full and unabridged truth here. They need to come out from under the bed, and confront their fears. They need to be willing to take the consequences, so that their club can emerge clean from this, and start again, with all this behind them.

And it can all happen with one simple thing. The application of the rules.

The existence of laws comes down to a simple principle; they protect society from those elements within it who are interested only in their own selfish ends. We may cry out at those rules and regulations we see as “restrictive”, but the law was not made to restrict our freedoms but to protect them. Had the SFA years ago acted against Rangers sectarian signing policy, and the songs from the stands, the club would not have mutated to the point where there was no help on hand when they needed it the most. Let’s not kid ourselves about this; Whyte and Green were only able to grab control because the club itself has a dreadful image which put off respectable and responsible buyers. The SFA could have helped change that perception years ago and did nothing.

The SFA could have conducted its own investigation into who Craig Whyte was. They could have asked David Murray for full disclosure when he was running up £80 million of debt, a sum of money that is beyond belief for a single club in a small provincial backwater league. Had they had the guts to do that the club would never have spent itself into oblivion and forced the hand of Lloyds, which led indirectly to their ignominious end.

The SFA could have fully investigated Charles Green and the means by which he took control, instead of rushing through a license. His emergence at the last minute was transparently suspicious and designed to force them into a quick decision, but they did not have to bow to that pressure by making one, without being in possession of the facts, as it is now 100% clear they were not.

Had they asked for every document, had they insisted on legal affidavits and personal securities from investors (and this would have been perfectly legitimate and is common place in other licensing areas) none of this would have come to pass. After Craig Whyte they had a moral responsibility to the rest of the game to get this one right and their failure is without parallel in the history of Scottish football.

As the club hurtles towards a new abyss, names are cropping up which should send a shudder down the spines of every honest, genuine supporter of not only Rangers but every team in the land. The SFA claims that a strong Rangers is essential for the sake of Scottish football, but they have been extraordinarily lax in protecting that club, and therefore the game, from destructive elements. Craig Whyte and Charles Green had dubious personal histories, and the acquisition of the club itself was mired in controversy and scandal. Yet it was allowed.

Neither Green nor Whyte were known to have operated outside the law, yet neither was worthy of trust or stood up to scrutiny. Neither man should ever have been granted the status as fit and proper persons to assume a role in our national sport, and if it is true of them what can we say about the three men who are, presently, being touted as the Great White Hopes for a bright, new Rangers future; Dave King and the Easdale brothers?

King recently cut a deal with the South African government over an on-going dispute over taxes. In other words, he pled guilty and accepted the central plank of their argument; that for years he was engaged in wilfully with-holding vast revenues from their Treasury. The media does not like to put it like that, and the SFA seems willing to ignore it utterly, and this would be scandalous enough. But it does not stop there. HRMC rules – as well as the SFA’s own governance documents – actually bar him from serving on the board of the new club.

Last but not least, aside from being an admitted tax cheat, King is also awaiting trial in South Africa, having been indicted for corruption, forgery and fraud – 300 charges in total. Yet as recently as last week, we were told that the Association was willing to look at him and consider representations from his lawyers. This is almost beyond belief.

If Dave King’s position is untenable, and he is yet to be convicted of a crime, what can we say about the position of the Easdale’s? One of the two brothers, Sandy, has already served jail time. He is a convicted criminal, a fraudster nonetheless, who’s “victim” was the same Treasury who are appealing one case involving the old club and liquidated it entirely over another. This is precisely the kind of “businessman” the fit and proper person test was supposed to weed out, and if the SFA holds its nose here the reek will stink out the halls at Hampden for decades. If King or the Easdale’s are judged fit and proper, then who exactly is the test for? What exactly do you have to do to fail it? How do we explain the existence of laws, when these are not applied?

Pascal says “Law without force is impotent.” The SFA’s weakness has allowed one version of Rangers to destroy itself, and has allowed an existential risk to another. If the next power at Rangers resides in South Africa or Greenock I can say with some certainty that the Association is engaged in an even more dangerous roll of the dice, because the surfacing of fresh scandal will be an ever present risk, and will be of the sort no-one will survive.

The damage to Scottish football will take years to heal. The Scottish game has been through enough trauma. It does not need more. It barely survived the last calamity to hit Rangers. The rest of us should not be forced to pay the price of the next one.

The greater damage will be done to Rangers itself. If the Green crisis ends in another collapse – as it well might; another administration event is a certainty, and another liquidation is a much more likely prospect than it was before 14 February 2012 – the club will once again have to start from the bottom, and this time the reputational damage will be impossible to repair. The club faces internal strife, sporting sanctions, and criminal investigations. The last takeover might be declared a fraud. the Whyte takeover will almost certainly be. The share issue might be invalid, as well as criminal, and the people involved may well end up in jail. Lawsuits could follow from investors, there could be as yet unknown consequences from the Upper Tier Tax Tribunal (thank you Brogan Rogan for pointing out what those might be) and a host of other issues.

Rangers fans must be the loudest voices here. How do you want the world to view your club in years to come? Do you want one to be proud of, or one forever associated with the shame and disgrace of these days gone by? The one which bailed out on its tax obligations. The one with supporters who disgrace your very name. The one which allowed Whyte and Green to take you to the cleaners and send you to the wall. The one which handed over control to one convicted criminal and another awaiting trial. Do you want to be reborn clean, or mired in the muck?

David Murray destroyed your financial stability. He made it so no bank would issue you a line of credit and no investor of note wanted to buy. Craig Whyte liquidated you. Charles Green has cast the future of the Newco into doubt and acted in a manner which has annihilated your credibility with the financial markets for decades to come.

Between these three men, they have taken everything from you, and the press and the people who run the game here, as well as some of your own blindly ignorant fans, have allowed them to do all this and more. Now they conspire to hand the keys to Ibrox to other men of questionable character, who will wreck further havoc on the reputation of the club.

The Scottish Football Association has damaged the game it was supposed to protect, but above all else their greatest failure of governance was a failure to protect one of its biggest clubs from its own excesses and those of its owners.

Rangers fans, the SFA have betrayed your trust, more than the trust of any other club. What you must insist on now is full disclosure and transparency from the powers that be in Hampden. The SFA has to end the charade of allowing your club to handle this in-house. They must hand everything over to an outside agency – whether a legal one, or a footballing body like UEFA – and they must demand co-operation and answers, and threaten to withhold the license if they don’t get them.

You must not be afraid of that. You must embrace it. The men with their hands on the gears at Ibrox are motivated by money, and nothing more. If the license is withdrawn their “investments” are worthless. They cannot risk that.

You must demand that the rules on fit and proper persons are applied, and where necessary even made stronger, to prevent your club falling into unclean hands. You must demand that they protect your reputation from further damage, by getting this all out there and acting accordingly, even if that means your club does not play football for at least a year.

You must be willing to suck it all up, knowing that what will emerge is a Rangers which has been cleansed and moves forward with honour, and dignity, led by custodians who treasure it rather than those who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

The Rangers Standard has recently emerged as a genuine voice for those in your support who are sick and tired of what Rangers has become, and want it restored to something that is worthy of the love and respect in which you hold it. On that website, there are discussions about the kind of club you seek to be and about whether the institution of Rangers is about more than just football.

If that’s how you feel about it then you know it is about more than how many titles the club can claim, about more than just results on the park, about more than just the game. Rangers, like Celtic, is an idea. It has to be something you are proud of.

I am a socialist, but one with a fevered imagination and a tendency to write very dark things. This piece won’t have been good reading for some of you (perhaps all of you haha!) but I think there’s more hope in here than in other things I’ve written.

In spite of everything that’s come to pass, I still believe. I believe in Scottish football. I believe in our system of football governance, even if those who are working in it are failing on some level.

In society, as much as we strain against them, laws exist for our protection. To fail to enforce them is to leave us at the mercy of those elements who would do us harm. The rules of football ensure the protection of all clubs, not just a few.

The failure to enforce the rules has never had graver consequences than here in Scotland.  The irony is that bending and breaking them has hurt the one club those violations were designed to help. It cannot be allowed to happen again.

The rules must be applied without fear or favour.

The best must find their conviction, and their passionate intensity once more.

James is a co-editor of the On Fields of Green Blog http://www.onfieldsofgreen.com/

Scottish Football and the case for a Bismarck!

Good Evening.

When considering any type of protracted negotiation or discussion that seems to be going on too long, there is a story that is always worth remembering– whether it is actually a true story or not as the case may be.

It is said, that heads of state all met at a congress in what is now modern Germany sometime after the Franco Prussian war of 1870-1871.The entire congress was being run almost singlehandedly by the then Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismark and he was keen to get all the necessary signatures on paper to seal some deal or other.

However, others at the congress were not too keen to sign up to certain elements of the proposed deal and so they hithered and dithered and in the eyes of Bismark they simply waisted time by concentrating on the minutiae- the little matters, with a view to ensuring their own interests were best served in these small areas– and did not focus on the big issue.

Having tried to talk these others round and educate them in his own beliefs and point of view on the bigger picture without any success, Bismark grew weary of the continuing delay and the posturing of his colleagues. All attempts at reason and diplomacy had failed in his eyes and so he decided to take a different tack.

Accordingly, it is said that whilst others were still inside debating endlessly on this matter or that, Bismark left the building and began simply shooting the windows in with the aid of a riffle which he just happened to have handy.

Those inside were naturally alarmed at this turn of events. They soon forgot about the minutiae under debate, they abandoned the previously expressed self interest and simply signed up so that they could get away from the mad chancellor and his house.

Job done so to speak.

Whilst I do not in anyway condone the behaviour of Otto von Bismark in this instance, and have no doubt that he was an autocrat, what I will say is that he believed that there was too much time being spent on the unimportant stuff and not enough time recognising what really needed doing– from his point of view of course.

Today– and it seems every day for months— we have endless debate about the future of Scottish Football. League reconstruction and the redistribution of footballing wealth has become a marathon– even before it has started.

Yet I believe that at the moment all parties concerned are not focusing on the radical reform that is fundamentally needed which is the creation of one, strong, properly structured and constituted body which is capable of the proper and ethical governance of Scottish Football and the business that surrounds football.

No matter what system you try, or distribution you agree, without proper sensible strong governance you are wasting your time.

Further, whatever body is set up, and whoever is chosen to be its CEO (or whatever the head honcho is going to be called), they must tackle the issue of corporate and fiscal compliance and the proper administration of any body corporate which actively takes part in Scottish Football– and that includes any such body or person who is involved in the running of a member club.

In addition, in so dealing with any corporate malfeasance or chicanery or whatever, the rules have to be applied with a rod of iron by an iron body.

As we can now clearly see, Football clubs and football in general is not, and never will be, immune from the effects of bad corporate governance and on occasion downright manipulation of facts, figures and contracts.

Whilst great play has been made of the fact that Gavin Masterton has handed over his shares in Dunfermline FC ( or its holding company ) the fact of the matter is that this in no way solves the problem faced by the football club. Whoever gains control of that club will still have to rent the ground from Mr Masterton’s company– and it is a rent that the club may just not be able to afford.

Ever!

It is only my opinion of course, but I am of the view that Mr Masterton has sealed a loan deal with his bankers which is of a type and duration which could not normally be achieved by other borrowers. The Loan has a lengthy period during which no repayments are necessary and interest can continue to accrue.

All very good you may say, but the level of debt concerned is not one that appears to be sustainable by Dunfermline FC and so whoever buys the club as a going concern ( if anyone buys it at all ) will have to pay an agreed rental to Gavin Masterton– and if the rental is not sufficient to repay Mr Masterton’s lenders, then I suspect that the end game here will be a search to find a buyer for the ground at some point over the next twenty years or so, with the hope that as part of the deal a space will be found somewhere for a new ground like New St Mirren park– the difference being that in that instance St Mirren were in charge of their future whereas Dunfermline are not.

The Governance of that club and the financial arrangements behind the club should have been looked at and examined by the SFA long before now– and the Dunfermline fans warned about the dangers of any such arrangements. Effectively those finance arrangements, should they continue, will probably mean that the club will have no option but to move from its established home!

All to suit one man!

Thankfully Dundee were spared a full takeover by Giovanni Di Stefano, however is it not a bit worrying that this man who has been jailed for over 14 years for various fraudulent acts, was allowed to roam around Scottish Football for a prolonged period?

Not so long ago Di Stefano did play a part at Dens, was in line to buy almost 30% of the shareholding, and was oft quoted in the papers and so on. The thing is that there were those who were prepared to give him a place at the Dundee table and in so doing invited him into Scottish Football.

Surely the SFA, had they been inclined to, could quite easily have pointed out that many of the claims of Mr Di Stefano were at least dubious if not completely incorrect? Yet nothing was being said at the time and silence prevailed.

Whilst not in the same calibre as Di Dtefano, Vladimir Romanov has now been at Hearts for a prolonged period. While I have no quibbles about the legality of Romanov’s takeover of Hearts, any money of a sizeable size which is transferred into Scotland from a foreign country will be subject to scrutiny by the Crown office to ensure that it is clean. Lithuania in particular is said to have a banking system which is governed loosely and sometimes does not meet the compliance standards expected in this country.

With his bank having gone bust, Romanov still retains the majority shareholding at Tynecastle, but there are questions still to be answered about what has happened at Hearts but life will be very different for the Edinburgh club going forward.

Again– could the SFA have done more to monitor the situation and could they have demanded clarity and detail from the Hearts owner as to his business dealings and the detailed arrangements with his bank?

At Ibrox, well things just go from the weird and inexplicable to downright astonishing– and all through a tremendous amount of smoke and mirrors.

It is clear that the SFA have no idea what to believe from Charles Green or for that matter Craig Whyte. On the face of it, there are clear links between Whyte and Green with the former paying over a six figure sum in return for absolutely nothing it would appear– with similar transactions going between Whyte’s colleague, Aiden Early, and Charles Green.

What is clear is that Green gave a clear undertaking to the SFA that he had nothing whatsoever to do with Whyte and would have nothing to do with Whyte going forward. Now, at the very least he is admitting that he met Whyte on several occasions, and whilst he may have made representations to Craig Whyte— these were all lies designed only to get Whyte to where Green wanted him.

This is hardly the act of someone who has been bona fides in his business dealings either with Whyte or with the SFA as the licensing body.

It is against this background that the Scottish Football Agencies need to wake up before they find the fans of the game ( at least those who want to stay interested in the game ) doing a Bismarck and panning in the windows of this whole house of cards.

Football Clubs, football fans, and indeed football itself needs protected from the financial and corporate shenanigans, and the governing body must be much more active and permanently vigilant in watching out for and if necessary anticipating the people and the transactions which have and will jeopardise clubs and the game in general going forward.

It is clearly no longer acceptable to rely on self regulation or mere declarations and undertakings from the clubs themselves. The Administrators must be much more active and employ far greater professional expertise in carrying out an almost constant analytical and reporting function in relation to club finance and corporate regulation.

All and any changes in funding, boardroom changes, investor changes and anything else major should be the subject of immediate and proper scrutiny by the SFA and there should be fair, immediate and stiff sanctions for non compliance, and any type of dilatory behaviour on the part of club officials who would seek to conceal the truth or who fail to properly disclose vital matters which should be out in the open.

Further, the funding detail– such as the never ending loan re Dunfermline should be a matter of public record in all its detail so that fans and investors can make information based value judgements when dealing with any club.

Such stiffer regulation should not develop into anything like a corporate witch hunt or any kind of draconian big brother syndrome, however the need for change given all of the current troubles is obvious to one and all.

Further, the attempted fudge surrounding Rangers league status last summer and the ongoing disquiet surrounding the position of Campbell Ogilvie does nothing to boost faith in and the reputation of Football Administration in Scotland.

Things are far from clear and there appears to be continual dithering and fudging. No one has any idea where the Nimmo Smith Report has gone nor what import it is to have— if any. Why is that?

Dithering and bumbling over detail is no longer an option. Strong clear governance is required to protect the game from being hijacked by those who have their own corporate and financial agendas.

Such people cannot be allowed to determine the way Scottish Football runs  or to conduct themselves in a fashion that leaves football and everyone involved in limbo.

It is time for Scottish Football to find its own Iron Chancellor!  There is a need for someone who will, if necessary, come along and shoot the lights out of any club or Company Director who wishes to play fast and loose with the game of football.

Fair Play at FIFA?

The following post comes about as a result of the research and work put in by Auldheid.

He has drafted the submission to FIFA detailed below after closely looking at their rules, and taking on board the points contained in the Glasnost “Golden Rule” blog. TSFM has attached the blog’s name to the report since the overwhelming – but not unanimous – view of our readership is that the SFA and the SPL have again gotten themselves into an almighty and embarrassingly amateur fankle over this issue.

We believe that tens of thousands of football fans will be lost to the game if the outcome of the LNS enquiry is not perceived to be commensurate with the scope and extent of the rule breaking that LNS found had taken place. In view of this, we believe that we have to do what we can to explore all possibilities for justice for those who love the game so much and yet are utterly disillusioned by recent events.

LNS is not being questioned here. He has found that RFC were guilty as charged by the SPL.

What is being questioned is the SFA’s crucial – and seemingly conflicted  – role in the LNS enquiry, as is the effectiveness of LNS’s recommended sanction as either a deterrent or an upholder of sporting integrity.

It came to our notice last week that FIFA have created a web site at

https://www.bkms-system.net/bkwebanon/report/clientInfo?cin=6fifa61&language=eng

that tells us that FIFA have implemented a regulatory framework which is intended to ensure that all statutory rules, rules of conduct and internal guidelines of FIFA are respected and complied with.

In support of that regulatory framework FIFA have set up the above site as a reporting mechanism by means of which inappropriate behaviour and infringements of the pertinent regulations may be reported.

FIFA say that their jurisdiction encompasses misconduct that (1) relates to match manipulation; (2) occurs in or affects more than one confederation, so that it cannot adequately be addressed by a single confederation; or (3) would ordinarily be addressed by a confederation or association, but, under the particular facts at issue, has not been or is unlikely to be dealt with appropriately at that level.

Discussions arising from the previous blog on TSFM, “Gilt Edged Justice”, which was published after Lord Nimmo Smith (LNS) ruled on the registration of Rangers players who had contractual side letters that were not disclosed to the SFA as part of their registration, suggest that there may be possible unfortunate consequences for football arising from the evidence presented by the SFA to the LNS enquiry that informed its findings on registration and consequent eligibility. There is also a question of the propriety of the SFA providing evidence on an issue which could have had a negative impact on them had it been found that they had failed to carrying out their registration duties with due rigour over a period of ten years when the existence of EBTs was known to officials within the SFA.

On the basis that the LNS findings require that registration rules be clarified by FIFA and rewritten globally if necessary to remove any ambiguity and under clause 3 above, this appears to be an issue that the FIFA should examine and that the SFA cannot address.

The following report has therefore been submitted by TSFM on behalf of its readers to FIFA drawing on the content and debate following the “Gilt Edged Justice” blog in respect of the possible footballing consequences of the LNS enquiry.

The hope is that by speaking for so many supporters, FIFA will give the TSFM submission some weight, but individuals are free of course to make their own points in their own way.  We await acknowledgement of the submission.

The report Submitted to FIFA is as follows;

This report was prepared on behalf of the 10,000-strong readership of The Scottish Football Monitor at http://scottishfootballmonitor.wordpress.com/
It is our belief that FIFA general rules of conduct were breached by the SFA and their employees in both creating and then advising The Lord Nimmo Smith (LNS) enquiry into the non disclosure of full payment information to the Scottish Football Association (SFA) by Rangers F.C during a period of player registration over 10 years from 2000.

We believe that although the issue has been addressed by the SFA the particular facts at issue suggest that it has not been dealt with appropriately and we therefore ask FIFA to investigate. The facts at issue are that the process and advice given failed to uphold sporting integrity, and that a conflict of interest was at play.

We believe the advice provided and the enquiry set up, where SFA both advised and is the appellant body, breaches not only the integrity the registration rules were intended to uphold, but also totally undermines the integrity of the SFA in breach of General Conduct rules 1, 2 and 4. (See below.)

1.  Firstly we believe that the advice supplied to LNS that an incorrectly registered player was eligible to play as long as the registration was accepted by the SFA however unwittingly, undermines the intent of the SPL/SFA rules on player registration and so undermines the integrity of football in three ways.

• It incentivises clubs to apply for a player to be registered even if they know that the conditions of registration are not satisfied, in the hope that the application will somehow ‘slip through the net’ and be granted anyway (in which case it will be valid until revoked).

• A club which discovers that it has made an error in its application is incentivized to say nothing and to ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ – because it would be in a better position by not confessing its mistake.

• And most importantly, it incentivises fraud.  By deliberately concealing relevant information, a club can ensure that a player who does not satisfy the registration conditions is treated as being eligible – and therefore allowed to play – for as long as a period as possible (potentially his entire spell with the club). Then, if the club is no longer around when the deception is finally discovered, imposing meaningful sanctions may be impossible.

2.   Secondly we believe the process followed was inappropriate due to a Conflict of Interest. Had the LNS enquiry not ruled on the basis of advice supplied by The SFA, they and those persons advising the LNS enquiry, could have been subjected to censure and the SFA to potential compensation claims had LNS found that the players were indeed ineligible to play and results then been annulled as was SFA practice when an ineligible player played.

3.  Finally we contend that a law should not be applied according to its literal meaning if to do so would lead to an absurdity or a manifest injustice or in this case loss of football integrity.
See http://glasnostandapairofstrikers.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/gilt-edged-justice/

4. We therefore ask FIFA to investigate both the process used and advice given to Lord Nimmo Smith to satisfy themselves that FIFA’s intentions with regard to upholding the integrity of football under FIFA rules have not been seriously damaged by the LNS findings and also to reassure Scottish football supporters that the integrity of our game has not been sacrificed by the very authority in whose care it has been placed to promote the short term cause of commercialism to the games long term detriment.

General Rules of Conduct (These are taken from the FIFA web site itself and can be found as part of completing the submission process)

1. Persons bound by this Code are expected to be aware of the importance of their duties and concomitant obligations and responsibilities.

2. Persons bound by this Code are obliged to respect all applicable laws and regulations as well as FIFA’s regulatory framework to the extent applicable to them.

3. N/A

4. Persons bound by this Code may not abuse their position in any way, especially to take advantage of their position for private aims or gains.

Big Pink:

Excellent food for thought which we thought worthy of inclusion…

Originally posted on Glasnost (and a Pair of strikers):

Fiat justitia, et pereat mundus
(Let justice be done, though the world perish)

Picture the scene. A wealthy old lady decides to disinherit her only son. So he kills her before she gets the chance to make a Will. What should happen to her estate? Succession law couldn’t be clearer: she died without leaving a valid Will and, under the intestacy rules, her son is entitled to inherit all her wealth. The extended family bring a legal challenge.

You’re the judge: what would you do?

View original 2,542 more words

Everything Has Changed

The recent revelations of a potential winding up order being served on Rangers Newco certainly does have a sense of “deja vu all over again” for the average reader of this blog.

It reminds me of an episode of the excellent Western series Alias Smith & Jones. The episode was called The Posse That Wouldn’t Quit. In the story, the eponymous anti-heroes were being tracked by a particularly dogged group of law-men whom they just couldn’t shake off – and they spent the entire episode trying to do just that. In a famous quote, Thaddeus Jones, worn out from running, says to Joshua Smith, “We’ve got to get out of this business!”

The SFM has been trying since its inception to widen the scope and remit of the discussion and debate on the blog. Unsuccessfully. Like the posse that wouldn’t quit, Rangers are refusing to go away as a story. With the latest revelations, I confided in my fellow mods that perhaps we too should get out of this business. I suspect that, even if we did, this story would doggedly trail our paths until it wears us all down.

The fact that the latest episode of the Rangers saga has sparked off debate on this blog may even confirm the notion subscribed to by Rangers fans that TSFM is obsessed with their club. However even they must agree that the situation with regard to Rangers would be of interest to anyone with a stake in Scottish Football; and that they themselves must be concerned by the pattern of events which started over a decade ago and saw the old club fall into decline on a trajectory which ended in liquidation.

But let me enter into a wee discussion which doesn’t merely trot out the notion of damage done to others or sins against the greater good, but which enters the realm of the damage done to one of the great institutions of world sport, Rangers themselves.

David Murray was regarded by Rangers fans as a hero. His bluster, hubris and (as some see it) arrogant contempt for his competitors afforded him a status as a champion of the cause as long as it was underpinned by on-field success.

The huge pot of goodwill he possessed was filled and topped-up by a dripping tap of GIRUY-ness for many years beyond the loss of total ascendency that his spending (in pursuit of European success) had achieved, and only began to bottom out around the time the club was sold to Craig Whyte.  In retrospect, it can be seen that the damage that was done to the club’s reputation by the Murray ethos (not so much a Rangers ethos as a Thatcherite one) and reckless financial practice is now well known.

Notwithstanding the massive blemish on its character due to its employment policies, the (pre-Murray) Rangers ethos portrayed a particularly Scottish, perhaps even Presbyterian stoicism. It was that of a conservative, establishment orientated, God-fearing and law-abiding institution that played by the rules. It was of a club that would pay its dues, applied thrift and honesty in its business dealings, and was first to congratulate rivals on successes (witness the quiet dignity of John Lawrence at the foot of the aircraft steps with an outstretched hand to Bob Kelly when Celtic returned from Lisbon).

If Murray had dug a hole for that Rangers, Craig Whyte set himself up to fill it in. No neo-bourgeois shirking of responsibilities and duty to the public for him; his signature was more pre-war ghetto, hiding behind the couch until the rent man moved along to the next door. Whyte just didn’t pay any bills and with-held money that was due to be passed along to the treasury to fund the ever more diminished public purse. Where Murray’s Rangers had been regarded by the establishment and others as merely distasteful, Whyte’s was now regarded as a circus act, and almost every day of his tenure brought more bizarre and ridiculous news which had Rangers fans cringing, the rest laughing up their sleeve, and Bill Struth birling in his grave.

The pattern was now developing in plain sight. Murray promised Rangers fans he would only sell to someone who could take the club on, but he sold it – for a pound – to a guy whose reputation did not survive the most cursory of inspection. Whyte protested that season tickets had not been sold in advance, that he used his own money to buy the club. Both complete fabrications. Yet until the very end of Whyte’s time with the club, he, like Murray still, was regarded as hero by a fan-base which badly wanted to believe that the approaching car-crash could be avoided.

Enter Charles Green. Having been bitten twice already, the fans’ first instincts were to be suspicious of his motives. Yet in one of history’s greatest ironic turnarounds, he saw off the challenge of real Rangers-minded folk (like John Brown and Paul Murray) and their warnings, and by appealing to what many regard as the baser instincts of the fan-base became the third hero to emerge in the boardroom in as many years. The irony of course is that Green himself shouldn’t really pass any kind of Rangers sniff-test; personal, sporting, business or cultural; and yet there he is the spokesman for 140 years of the aspirations of a quarter of the country’s fans.

To be fair though, what else could Rangers fans do? Green had managed (and shame on the administration process and football authorities for this) to pick up the assets of the club for less (nett) than Craig Whyte and still maintained a presence in the major leagues.

If they hadn’t backed him only the certainty of doom lay before them. It was Green’s way or the highway in other words – and speaking of words, his sounded mighty fine. But do the real Rangers minded people really buy into it all?

First consider McCoist. I do not challenge his credentials as a Rangers minded man, and his compelling need to be an effective if often ineloquent spokesman for the fans. However, according to James Traynor (who was then acting as an unofficial PR advisor to the Rangers manager), McCoist was ready to walk in July (no pun intended) because he did not trust Green. The story was deliberately leaked, to undermine Green, by both Traynor and McCoist. McCoist also refused for a long period of time to endorse the uptake of season books by Rangers fans, even went as far as to say he couldn’t recommend it.

So what changed? Was it a Damascene conversion to the ways of Green, or was it the 250,000 shares in the new venture that he acquired. Nothing improper or unethical – but is it idealism? Is it fighting for the cause?

Now think Traynor. I realise that can be unpleasant, but bear with me.

Firstly, when he wrote that story on McCoist’s resignation, (and later backed it up on radio claiming he had spoken to Ally before printing the story), he was helping McCoist to twist Green’s arm a little. Now, and I’m guessing that Charles didn’t take this view when he saw the story in question, Green thinks that Traynor is a “media visionary”?

Traynor also very publicly, in a Daily Record leader, took the “New Club line” and was simultaneously contemptuous of Green.

What happened to change both their minds about each other? Could it have been (for Green) the PR success of having JT on board and close enough to control, and (for Traynor) an escape route for a man who had lost the battle with own internal social media demons?

Or, given both McCoist’s and Traynor’s past allegiance to David Murray, is it something else altogether?

Whatever it is, both Traynor and McCoist have started to sing from a totally different hymn sheet to Charles Green since the winding up order story became public. McCoist’s expert étude in equivocation at last Friday’s press conference would have had the Porter in Macbeth slamming down the portcullis (now there’s an irony). He carefully distanced himself from his chairman and ensured that his hands are clean. Traynor has been telling one story, “we have an agreement on the bill”, and Green another, “we are not paying it”.

And what of Walter Smith? At first, very anti-Charles Green, he even talked about Green’s “new club”. Then a period of silence followed by his being co-opted to the board and a “same club” statement. Now in the face of the damaging WUP story, more silence. Hardly a stamp of approval on Green’s credentials is it?

Rangers fans would be right to be suspicious of any non-Rangers people extrapolating from this story to their own version of Armageddon, but shouldn’t they also reserve some of that scepticism for Green and Traynor (neither are Rangers men, and both with only a financial interest in the club) when they say “all is well” whilst the real Rangers man (McCoist) is only willing to say “as far as I have been told everything is well”

As a Celtic fan, it may be a fair charge to say that I don’t have Rangers best interests at heart, but I do not wish for their extinction, nor do I believe that one should ignore a quarter of the potential audience for our national game. Never thought I’d hear myself say this, but apart from one (admittedly mightily significant) character defect, I can look at the Rangers of Struth and Simon, Gillick and Morton, Henderson and Baxter, and Waddell and Lawrence (and God help me even Jock Wallace) with fondness and a degree of nostalgia.

I suspect most Rangers fans are deeply unhappy about how profoundly their club has changed. To be fair, my own club no longer enchants me in the manner of old. As sport has undergone globalisation, everything has changed. Our relationship to our clubs has altered, the business models have shifted, and the aspirations of clubs is different from that of a generation ago. It has turned most football clubs into different propositions from the institutions people of my generation grew up supporting, but Rangers are virtually unrecognisable.

The challenge right now for Rangers fans is this. How much more damage will be done to the club’s legacy before this saga comes to an end?

And by then will it be too late to do anything about it?

Most people on this blog know my views about the name of Green’s club. I really don’t give a damn because for me it is not important. I do know, like Craig Whyte said, that in the fullness of time there will be a team called Rangers, playing football in a blue strip at Ibrox, and in the top division in the country.

I understand that this may be controversial to many of our contributors, but I hope that this incarnation of Rangers is closer to that of Lawrence and Simon than to Murray and Souness.

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